If you’ve been waiting for Charlize Theron to follow up her action movie star creds earned in Mad Max: Fury Road, you’ve probably had your sights in Atomic Blonde for a while now. Directed by David Leitch, the feature has drawn comparisons to the Bourne films although I found the film closer in fighting style to John Wick. Granted, there’s less gun play, but here’s where the movie breaks a female action taboo: our heroine gets hurt and bruised.
Perhaps hurt is the most outstanding thing about Lorraine Broughton. She can look like a million bucks, but she’s not doing the catwoman-in-leather thing. She goes physical and gets attacked right back. She gets hurt, she gets punched, she kicks back and it shows. Bruises are left over from one scene to another. Her fights are not damsel fights, they’re rough and physically tiresome. The combatants are not elegant and not every punch connects. Lorraine doesn’t land on her feet every time. She still looks very much like she’s kicking everyone’s ass from here to the moon though.
The music is very much her co-star, I’d dare say even more than James McAvoy who plays David Percival. The Berlin station chief and Lorraine’s contact in the communist city is another bigger-than-life character, running cons left and right and selling jeans in East Berlin. The 80’s soundtrack is just a notch above him, complementing every scene and nostalgically setting us up in the good/bad ol’ years of the Cold War with the music scene of the 80’s (Nena’s 99 Luftballoons was expected and didn’t disappoint).
The plot does get a little contrived, to the point that I felt like just drowning it out. The spectacle is visual, musical but you’re going to the wrong movie to seek out a fully logical explanation. That being said, it is still a spy movie through and through as alliances are made, deals are broken, and there’s an ubiquitous list of spies that must not fall in the wrong hands somewhere around there.
Highly recommended for action film enthusiasts. Don’t expect an art film and don’t expect Bond. But do expect a new standard for the anti-hero who happens to be female. The movie is elegant where it wants to be and brutal where it needs to. In a day and age where some spies just brush off dust and join the party, Atomic breaks open the door and goes for the jugular. Beautiful but damaged, elegant but savage, the movie looks and sounds a lot like its main lead. She will break your heart. And your arms. And your legs.
That will do for now.